On Sundays, Peter Grant has music days. This past day he gave me an ear-worm*, thanks to a rendition of “My Old Man’s a Dustman,” a song I grew up singing because of the Irish Rovers. That, “Lilly the Pink,” “The Tattooed Lady,” and others were what my parents called “Patter songs,” based on the Vaudville tradition. (I actually had a great aunt who was a Vaudville singer and dancer, and who retired to an Actors’ Equity home. So I come by it honestly.)
Patter is a term for the fast paced humorous talk, a comedian or salesman’s patter. So a patter song was that, but set to music, often (always?) humorous and often a bit of a refreshing pause in the pace of the musical or variety performance. Gilbert and Sullivan put lots of them into their work. “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General,” (and Tom Lehrer’s ‘The Element Song” which uses the same tune,) “They Never Will be Missed,” “The Nightmare Song,” and others come to mind. Mozart’s Don Giovanni has a patter song, in the duet where Don Giovanni’s servant, Leoprello, is showing the little book with all of Giovanni’s amorous conquests.
“Do Your Ears Hang Low?” is one I learned as a patter song. Yes, it is a cleaned-up version of an older song, but I sang it along with, “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavor on the bedpost overnight?” and “The Billboard [I came upon a billboard]”. They were humorous bits among more serious choir and church camp stuff. Then there’s the Kingston Trio’s “The Tattooed Lady,” which for some reason I always link with “The Dog Sat in the Tucker Box (Five Miles from Gungadai)”
*Ohrwurm is the German, with the same meaning. It is from the same origin as the English term, although took on the musical sense before English picked the term up. https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/earworm-meaning-origin